Excerpts from the contents of the bulletin “Multi-ethnicity and development” (Bulletin no. 1)
BULDING OF THE CIVIL POLITICAL CULTURE – long-term frame for accepting and promoting of minority-rights and policies
Antonija Petričušić , Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb
Efficient and tenable long-term minority-politics in Croatia will be ensured only by the change in political attitudes and values of all, or at least of majority of Croatian citizens. Namely, the civil-political culture distinguishes recognition of the fact of multiethnicity and the respect of the rights of all the social groups, and thus of national minorities also, to be represented in the institutions of authority, to have the right to suggest and to influence creation of all policies, briefly – to be equal members of political and social community. Civil-political culture, which in our country yet needs to become a reality, would improve the quality of our relatively young democracy, in the same time ensuring the acceptance and promotion of minority-rights and policies.
The civil-political culture
...Awareness of the needs and rights of national minorities, as also more significant acceptance of minority-rights as legitimate and necessary by all citizens, are also indicators of consolidation of the democracy. In order to achieve this latter goal in Croatia, I am of the opinion that minority-politics should be made integral part of all state's policies (to implement so called mainstreaming of minority-questions in all areas of management and on all levels of national institutions) and to implement it in much wider social frame than the present one. I think that the acceptance of rights and the necessity of guaranteeing and implementing of minority-rights among all Croatian citizens will only be achieved by the development of civil-political culture. The minority-rights can not be implemented in some secluded part of society. It is necessary that the whole citizenship considers them legitimate and indispensable if only because their implementation is ensured by citizens who themselves are not the members of national minorities and work in the government bodies. However, when most of the citizens the rights of national minorities consider as privilege and not as right, such is the case in our country, it means their legitimacy in not well-explained and justified to the citizens.
The minority-politics without legitimacy among Croatian citizenship even after two decades
...However, despite the visible support of the political elites to the implementation and realization of the minority-model, two decades of democratic system in Croatia have not yet raised the consciousness in the minds, and especially in the hearts, of many Croatian citizens of the fact of multiethnic character of our society and even less legitimate minority-politics. Multiculturalism and multiethnicity of a particular society have justification and legitimacy only when they are implemented in the consciousness of its citizens. The results of last year's research on political literacy and attitudes of Croatian secondary school leavers corroborate the claim of illegitimacy of the politics of ethnic pluralism. Despite the fact that just over 50 percent of tested secondary school leavers support the insurance and realization of the rights of national minorities’ members, the research also revealed the worrying ubiquity of ethnocentricity among youths. Ethnocentricity surprises even more because among tested pupils comprehensive school pupils have had the subjects such as politics, economy and sociology in which is being acquired the education on the fact of multiethnicity and multiculturalism of Croatian society and also of the institutions and legal instruments that promote it. Ethnocentric attitudes of youths are probably the consequence of inadequate and, as a rule, nonexistent education of democratic citizenship in our country. Namely, the civil-politic culture is the consequence of political socialization which dominantly takes place in the educational process.
Building of the civil values – prerequisite of the sustainability of Croatian minority-model
It is already said that the process of democratization of society is not accelerated only by the newly established institutions and freshly written laws which are compliant with the international legal resources and standards. Democratization also demands the democratic resocialization of citizens and their adoption of the liberal-democratic values. These are the foundation of the democratic-political culture without which the democratic-political system can not function. Namely, the liberal-democratic values create more solid hypothesis for the consolidation of democracy. However, despite the increase of acceptance of the economic-political liberalism and the rejection of political authoritarianism, longitudinal researches show that there is transparent division in two value-camps in Croatia today: on one side there are citizens who accept the economic-political liberalism, and on the other there are those who support political authoritarianism. In other words, Croatian citizens relatively slowly liberate themselves of those components of undemocratic heritage which discouraged political participation and competence, and indirectly aggravate the acceptance of political pluralism and the respect of dissimilarities.
Whether democratic system will be stable, inclusive, and whether will it take into consideration the needs of all the segments of population and represent them, depends on political culture. The political culture is the result of common political history and personal life experience of every particular citizen, because it is constituted precisely of the citizens' values, beliefs, emotions and evaluations of the political system which are adopted by the processes of primary socialization, which takes place in the family circle, as well as political socialization which takes place during the education, by the exposure to the media, the membership in associations of civil society, the political participation etc. Therefore, the efficient and long-term minority-politics in our country can not be guaranteed only by legal norms and institutions that implement them, but by the change of attitudes and values of citizens towards the rights of national minorities and their realization. Mission not at all easy, but, it seems to me, neither impossible.
MULTIETNICITY AS A SOCIAL CAPITAL
Berto Šalaj, Ph. D. , Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb
In the basis of a term of social capital is the idea that the relations between people are important and can be used as a resource for achievement of certain objectives. If in a society there are developed norms of common solidarity and reciprocity, branched numerous networks of connection and mutual trust of citizens, such societies will solve problems in front of them more successfully. When it is about the relations between minority and majority it is always a two-way street in which the majority people’s growing perception that minorities do not present a threat has to meet the necessity that minorities do not seek the type of strategy of their own development in some kind of ghettoization, in closing their own identity, but, on the contrary, in its opening towards the whole society.
...Social capital in relation between minority and majority population
It seems justified to ask a question what type of social capital minorities want to build, and afterwards, of course, the majority people also. When we speak of the bridging and connecting social capital, it is a question important for minorities. The connecting social capital, in fact, connects people who are very similar to each other, therefore people who are of the same ethnic origin, of the same race, etc.
On the other hand, the bridging social capital, as its name implies, tries to bridge over certain divisions in a society, be they divisions along ethnic lines, be they divisions along class lines, or some other kind of division. In that context exactly arises the question of what kind of strategy the minorities in Croatia have.
Do they want to build this connecting social capital which can be useful in some situations, because it firmly makes solid and homogenizes the members of an ethnic group. However, the question arises whether minorities ghettoize themselves by doing this and whether by building that connecting social capital they in fact neglect the possibility of stronger involvement and incorporation in overall society i.e. of building this bridging social capital.
Of course, in all that it is also important the question how majority people treat national minorities and what type of social capital the majority people want to build. Although the researches of social capital in heterogeneous societies are just beginning, it is being shown that the societies in which that connecting social capital is high in fact do not function very well.
Typical example is the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina which is totally divided along the ethnic lines. The research of social trust I have made in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an example of one negative condition, an example of what things should not be. However, some other researches, for example in some societies of the USA (where it is not about, in the first place, ethnic as much as racial relations), suggest that difference and contacts decreases those racial prejudices and bring to creation of a more positive political culture.
Minority potentials and development of society
You already have some researches which show that different minorities with their different cultures cause that those societies respond easier to different needs. The specific culture is prone to the certain type of economical development, so those communities which are heterogeneous can more easily respond to the increasing and growing complexity of modern societies. As far as the development on local level is concerned, there yet has to be seen how the situation will unwind. However, what I see as two crucial components through which the role of national minorities should continue to be promoted, on the local as well as national level, are first of all education and media, two very powerful instruments of socialization and creation of identity. If they begin to operate in a way to promote that positive social capital then we will have more and more examples of that positive cooperation. However, I think that is also always a two-way street of relations of minorities and majority people. And the minority-groups themselves need to work on showing that their actions and efforts do not only go in the direction of some particular interests, but are in fact something that benefit to the whole community. Therefore, there, to speak metaphorically again, in that two-way street, majority people’s growing perception that minorities do not present a threat has to meet the necessity that minorities do not seek the type of strategy of their own development in some kind of ghettoization, in closing of their own identity, but, on the contrary, in its opening towards the whole society.
Interview with Dragan Bagić , PH.D. , one of the authors of research on the return of Serbian fugitives in Croatia, which is realized with the support of UNHCR
THE EFFICACY OF THE RETURN IS NOT SHOWN BY THE NUMBERS, BUT BY THE POSSIBILITY FOR THE REALITATION OF THE RETURN
The return is not a return to the certain and well-known, but a coming to the uncertain and relatively unknown. Therefore, the efficacy should be evaluated from the perspective of the existence of the possibility for that return. It is crucial that all people have the right of restoration and recovery of their property and that nobody directly or indirectly hinders or discourages them in their return. And the decision itself has to be left to every individual and family.
Without people there is no development of local communities, especially not without people in productive age who are agile and engaged. The research has shown that agile returnees can play an important role in the encouragement of the development of those parts of the country that are often remote and undeveloped.
A great influx of new resources, regarding the population as well as finances, can not be expected on account of the return. However, the local communities so much the more must be sensitive about every new opportunity, be it big or small, having in mind one or few agile individuals or projects.
You have just presented to the public the results of the research „The return of minorities to Croatia – The study of open return“. That is the sequel of your research from 2006, which was presented under the title „Sustainability of the return – Serbian returnees in Croatia“. What does „sustainable“, and what does „open“ return mean?
The major breakthrough in our new study compared to the previous one is related to the shift of the emphasis from sustainability of the return to its openness. That does not mean we do not consider sustainability important. On the contrary, we do. However, it seemed to us that the return is too often understood as one-way movement and as an act, and not a process. By emphasizing the notion of “openness” we wanted to emphasize its two characteristics: gradualness and angle diversity. Gradualness manifests itself in the fact that the return, in fact, most often does not unwind as a single act in which an individual or a family pack their things and move from point A to point B. That process more and more often goes step by step: in the beginning people come periodically; then some members of a family settle for longer periods of time; and latter, the rest of the family may join them. However, the return is also angle diverse. That means it is “normal” for some of returnees to “give up” on the return after some time and to go to a new migration.
What crucial differences you have come to in the research of the process of the return in this new study compared to the previous one from the year 2006?
The new research has shown that the economical factors have become the dominant question of the sustainability. It seems that the economic crisis is the reason why one part of the returnees goes to a new migration, whether in Croatia itself or, in a sense, to the “third countries”. Furthermore, the results have shown a somewhat less of the international tension and more of the freedom of expressing your own identity among returnees. The new research has also shown, more precisely than the previous one, socio-demographic selection of the returnee population compared with those who have not returned. Our data show very precisely now that the persons who mostly haven’t returned are middle aged and productive, and also the persons of higher education which is a significant loss for the developmental potentials of those communities.
THE RETURN AS AN ANGLE DIVERSE PROCESS
Can the social losses of the slow, inadequate and insufficient... return be estimated? Are there any cognition and awareness of economic and social-demographic losses of Croatian society concerning that?
Demographic losses are obvious. I think many people are aware of that. The significant parts of the territory are half-empty, and the composition of the existent population is not optimistic, because it is mostly composed of older persons. All that have significant consequences on the economic losses, which nobody, as far as I know, has quantified, but I think that we are verily speaking of significant losses. Without people there is no development of local communities, especially not without people of productive age, people who are agile and engaged. The quality part of our research has shown well how the agile returnees can play a significant role in stimulating the development of the often remote and undeveloped parts of the country.
THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Could the local authorities use the return processes for the overall development of their communities? Is it possible to realize some kind of cooperation regarding that?
First of all, we should bear in mind that the process of returning of emigrants as a massive phenomenon, as a phenomenon which by its development can drastically change the condition of returninig has been significantly reduced. That is clearly shown by the all statistical data and the data from our research. That process is not over and will not be over for a long time, but the changes which it brings now are no longer so massive and great. Therefore, the local communities are now in the condition in which they are, in respect of number of population as well as its structure, so in that aspect we can not expect some deep structural changes. Thus, local communities must work on their own development, using those resources they have at the moment. We can not expect a big influx of new resources on account of the return, nor in the aspect of population nor in the aspect of financial resources. However, local communities so much the more must be sensitive about every new opportunity, be it big or small, in aspect of one or more agile individuals or projects.
THE PERMANENT SOLUTION FOR EVERYONE
Do you think Croatian authorities have done enough, as much as they could and as much as it was necessary to do?
It is difficult to answer this question generally, of course. There were many different periods in Croatia. It is interesting that the most massive return was taking place in the time when Croatian authorities were doing the least for the encouragement of the return – during the second half of 1990s. The best political and economic conditions for the return were probably between the 2003 and 2008. However, during that period a very few persons returned. And what is more important, those who returned during 1990s are mostly still here, while those who came later in much more favourable conditions were giving up more often. Therefore, we see that the efforts of the authorities and even political circumstances are not decisive factor for the massiveness and the sustainability of the return. It seems that exactly the time spent in the exile and the probability of integration in the ambience of the exile are crucial factors.
From that we could conclude that the greater openness of authorities to the return during the 1990s gave better results. For it was the crucial period. Unfortunately, we know that during that period the government was not particularly engaged on creation of favourable conditions for the return. We can even conclude that it was more engaged on its discouragement, especially on the local levels. All the positive changes that happened after that were important, but, I would say, were also more symbolic that they had the real effect.
TO PROMOTE THE DEVELOPMENTAL POTENTIAL OF THE RETURN
How much is Croatian society sensitized to accept and even encourage the return of emigrants and what eventually should be done to create a more favourable atmosphere for more successful process of return i. e. integration of returneees?
In parts of the country where people do not meet the returnees it seems that the return is not at all perceived as a phenomenon and a process. In those parts where returnees live and where potential returnees occasionally come, people are conscious of that process. But there are different attitudes. A part of non-returnee population surely does not think benevolently of the return. The reason for such attitude is often conditioned by the mutual competition for the limited resources such as jobs in public institutions and firms, or jobs in general. I think that the attitude of that part of the population could be changed if the developmental potentials of the return and the returnees would be communicated more clearly, and the best way would be through positive changes that already exist.
Does the return after all come to its conclusion, or does it stay permanent and long-term process in different modalities and what does it mean for society, what negative consequences it brings and how to avoid or at least alleviate them?
I think that the return as a political theme, as a question which is dealt by numerous institutions and organizations must finish soon. However, the return and another departure, such as movement of individuals between two or more points, will last long which is normal and positive. The supervision should be continued in order that nobody would be deprived of such possibility. In that process the institutions and politics will not and can not have a significant role. Now it becomes a primary question of the private decisions and preferences of people.